Interiors makeover turns Cork house into chic family home 

Interiors makeover turns Cork house into chic family home 

Building a house from scratch can get us exactly what we want, but sometimes buying a pre-loved house, seeing how it responds to our lifestyle and then revamping it can be just as good. 

It also means avoiding the stresses and lengthier processes involved in a new build.

The beauty of my job is I get to arrive at the end when everything is shiny and new, to see what’s been done and how it’s all working.

An excursion to Tower, Co Cork, is a perfect example, with an added and delicious perk of freshly brewed coffee and buttery scones straight from an oven which happens to be set in cabinetry embellished with brushed gold handles and finished in Railings paint from Farrow & Ball.

It’s a chameleon colour, appearing to be charcoal until the light comes out to play and a decidedly bluish hue emerges from its depths.

It also happens to be a favourite of interior designer David O’Brien of RJ O’Brien Building Contractors who met the owners last March to review their downstairs and come up with a redesign to make it work better for them and their three children aged under nine.

“The brief was more space and more connection with the back garden,” says David. “It was already open-plan but with lots of nooks and crannies. They wanted different areas in one space.”

Opening up the area in this 2008 build has created a dual aspect room from the front of the house to the rear. In the centre is the perfectly proportioned kitchen with a deep island at which to perch on a stool for coffee and scones, a chat while food prepping, supervising homework, or indulging in drinks and nibbles with friends, illuminated by pendant lights with fluted glass vintage-style shades.

It’s part of a look David has achieved with a mix of contemporary design and classic features, deploying a consistent palate of materials throughout.

“You’ll see it’s oak wood, or oak shades, with gold, navy, tan and leather,” he says.

But he emphasises the importance of working with the homeowner and their personal tastes, and not imposing the designer’s preferences. “There is always a negotiation with the client,” he adds. “You have to find out their style and make it cohesive.”

This is achieved in the main living area, a relaxing space with a television and fire, where a contemporary sofa is in a tonal match with the kitchen. The garden is in view through a wall of glass which opens up in summer linking the indoor and outdoor spaces.

At the other end of the room is the dining area with a modern wooden table and upholstered chairs, while off-set is a second smaller living area with a compact tan leather sofa to lounge prone with a book. It’s cosy, intimate and free from a looming television screen.

But like any family-orientated interior design it had to combine practicality with good looks.

“The floor is a contemporary terrazzo-style so you don’t see every speck of dirt,” David says. “Textiles are durable which you have to think about when there are children.”

And he’s also avoided the curse of large open-plan spaces: The dreaded echo, achieved with sound-absorbing textiles and his signature accessory, houseplants, which also add softness, shape and a relaxing green hue against white walls.

“In a big spend project plants are low-cost items,” he says. “It can be hard to make a new design feel lived in, but plant life adds softness.”

Other eye-catching features include an inspired design detail where David has inserted a glazed panel into the dividing wall with the hall. Not only does it add to the feeling of space and light but also allows the front door to be seen from

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